Monday, November 17, 2014

NaBloPoMo: Damning Left, Right, and Center

This week's writing prompt for my Autobiographical Literacies class: Consider Roorbach's thoughts about style and "saying things right." Also, think about Mullaney's experiences in a war-torn environment. In light of your readings, respond to Roorbach's prompt in page 181 - "forget about style." Write two pages in which you "throw a fit" about something and cast the cares of style to the wind."

This assignment has been revised because it involves professional situations that are currently frustrating and which would not be appropriate to share in a public forum. I have eliminated specific details as necessary and appropriate and edited the language accordingly. Some of my frustrations are general and not aimed towards specific students or current teaching situations.

As a caveat: I live in a very, very conservative state. Among other things that frustrate me politically (and I suppose religiously, too) about living here is that I can’t say things like, “Oh my G-d!” without someone accusing me of blasphemy; indeed, once I had a student leave me an unhappy course evaluation because before class one day I mentioned I’m not Mormon. (Apparently I’m anti-Mormon and I play favorites.) After one movie (I forget which) I showed in college, there was such a brief moment of nudity that I missed it during the several times I watched the movie, yet a student took offense and told me I should have warned them ahead of time. (We had a class discussion about this, about that in college and in the Great Big World at large there may be Adult Situations, but they’ll have to cope and not look for offense where there isn’t any.) The point of this mini-tirade is that occasionally I am apparently quite offensive; I curse (although not while teaching) – and there may be occasional cursing here. If that offends you, I’m very sorry; perhaps you should stop reading at this point.

Having to censure myself to the extent where I am unable to acknowledge nudity is not the only thing that frustrates me. At the moment, there are both general and specific academic policies that cause me to get twitchy, some of which are currently applicable, and some of which are not. I don’t know how much I can throw a fit here, but I can tell you that this is stuff I wish I could publicly and loudly denounce, but obviously this is not permissible. One doesn't want to appear entirely unprofessional.

That’s something else that frustrates me. I understand the rationale behind not publicly decrying idiocy, but for someone whose frustrations are more easily dispelled by writing, this leads to a prolonged sense of irritation because I can’t talk about what frustrates me.

I don’t think my irritation extends to the extremely ungrammatical. I find it difficult to take people seriously when they’re so massively ungrammatical that I can’t parse their anger, yet I’m sure I’m being ungrammatical right now without realizing it – unless you could ending a sentence with a preposition or prepositional phrase, which in and of itself I have difficulty in believing as ungrammatical (given that this “rule” was created as a means of applying Latin grammatical standards to English).

Moving on.

As a teacher, one is apparently supposed to like all one’s students. This is, of course, a sham. I like many of my students; some of them I haven’t strong feelings about one way or the other (mostly because I don’t know them well). Very rarely do I actively and strongly dislike a student, and it’s usually because of extremely disrespect and rudeness. Normally, I would simply extricate myself from any situation in which I would be required to interact with someone like this, yet there are situations in which one just needs to deal with it. I so strongly dislike so very few people that I don’t quite know what to do with myself when this happens.

And of course I understand the professionalism required of the situation – and the religious implications – of treating someone I dislike with respect regardless of the situation. I do not, however, appreciate trying to find something positive about someone who consistently treats me this way. (And I’d like to reiterate that this type of emotional response I speak of is such a rarity for me that I’m caught between wanting to bonk the kid on the head, or simply ignoring him outright.) I don’t like wanting to give up on students, but I can’t provide the same level of mental energy towards students who are vulgar for the sake of being intentionally hurtful. I like looking for the best in my students, but I am coming to the conclusion that there are just some students who are nasty for the sake of being nasty, and who are not, in fact, especially intelligent. I can’t tell if students like this pretend not to care because they just don't have the emotional skills necessary, or if they truly doesn’t care. I sometimes wonder, too, if there are students who would be better served by not being in high school until they see how difficult it will be without the necessary ethos to do good work.

Intelligence is not an issue for Mullaney, who clearly is an intelligent guy. I would argue, though, that while he is academically intelligent – he knows how to study, I would say, and has traveled quite a bit – his emotional intelligence needs some help, at least in how he portrayed himself in reacting and interacting with those around him; his overreactions are misdirected. How he treats his future wife, for example, speaks of immaturity, both in terms of being able to navigate their cultural differences as well as their personal and religious differences. (I don’t know how much of this is the result of his not having dated prior to meeting her.) More egregiously, Mullaney’s treatment of his father – who himself handled the departure from his family badly – indicates an inability to see that he does not have the right to insert himself into his parents’ marriage, an indication that he does not have the mental and emotional maturity to navigate complex emotional situations during which he is not in charge. He notes, for example, that he wanted answers he could challenge, a “knock-down, draft-out argument” that could lead to a physical altercation that would then lead to his father asking his forgiveness (211). I would not minimize his feelings of anger and betrayal, but perhaps this is not the best way to move past this. His parents’ marriage is their business, not his, and it’s interesting that we don’t hear what his mother’s response was, nor entertain the possibility that there might be another side to the story. We hear about his father’s faults, not his mother’s; it’s one-sided, and I wonder if Mullaney has ever regretted his reaction.

Work Cited
Mullaney, Craig M. The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier’s Education. New York: Penguin Books, 2009. Print.

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